By Kristina Pritchett
Dan Pingaro always had a love for the ocean, one that has now led to his new role of president and CEO of the Ocean Institute.
“Being able to take past experiences and apply it locally where people clearly love to go to the beach, to surf, swim or paddleboard, where there’s a lot of excitement of coastal interaction in the community. That’s my love. And to share that with likeminded residents is truly a real privilege,” Pingaro said.
Growing up, Pingaro was a junior lifeguard, and worked his way up the ranks to lifeguard at Huntington Beach. He could often be found surfing at Doheny State Beach and Salt Creek Beach.
“I remember being a kid, before having my license, and taking the number one bus to Salt Creek,” Pingaro said smiling.
When we interviewed Pingaro, it was his second day on the job, and he was still learning where everything was and everyone’s name. Outside, employees were helping unload students for an overnight camp, while others walked throughout the Institute on their way to various jobs.
He mentioned discussing upcoming events with some of the employees and said he could feel the excitement and passion from each of them.
“I feel really privileged as the CEO to be working with them,” Pingaro said about the staff. “I’m also really excited to be engaging with the community.”
Pingaro most recently served as executive director of the Laguna Beach Community Foundation for three years. Before then, he was the CEO and executive director of Sailors for the Sea on the East Coast, an ocean conservation nonprofit that focuses on sailing and boating community.
“There were no programs, no brand, and we grew that to three core programs,” Pingaro said of his experience at the organization.
In the past, he’s worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the water division and tribal programs; founded CLEWGEAR, a technical sailing apparel brand; was an advisor on the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a partner to the World Bank Global Partnership for Oceans; was an advisory council member to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and a trustee to the San Francisco Bay Marine Science Institute.
“All of those experiences, the governmental experience, the nonprofit experience, the board member experience, the foundation experience, the policy granting, it all comes together here at the Ocean Institute,” Pingaro said.
One thing Pingaro wants to bring to the Ocean Institute is his knowledge and background from previous jobs.
“I think my experiences with those partnerships will allow us to enhance our current programming to a level that we’ve never been at in the past,” Pingaro said. “The Ocean Institute has the opportunity to be a gem in California where it can be a shining example of ocean education, activity, engagement with the public and a real showcase of what’s happening in California.”
He said he’s also looking forward to connecting with groups nationwide to make the Institute a financial multiplier within the community.
Pingaro said he’s excited for the upcoming and special events at the Institute.
“I’m looking forward to the Tall Ships [Festival],” Pingaro said. “I’ll be looking at it through a different set of eyes. For me, it will be a learning experience.”